Woods Ignores Pain To Keep Playing

FAYETTEVILLE — Kevin Woods' left arm is weak. He can lift five pounds with his arm, but it might be awhile before he attempts picking up anything much heavier than that.

Of course, that could be a problem for the Arkansas free safety, whose job is to make tackles, break up passes and serve as one of the last lines of defense for the Razorbacks (8-4).

But Woods hasn't had a problem blocking out the pain that often shoots through his severely injured left shoulder. He's accustomed to it by now, the same way he expects his shoulder to pop out of place at least once a game.

"It's like I've almost gotten used to it now. Since it hasn't really popped out (lately), I've been become more relaxed about it and I just don't think about it as much," Woods said. "But of course, it's still there because it's a bad pain. But I just don't worry about it."

Woods has continued to play for much of the past two months despite battling a shoulder injury that will require reconstructive surgery two days after Arkansas faces No. 7 Missouri in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1.

For now, there is not much the 5-foot-10, 194-pound senior can do about the problem other than to take some pain medication and avoid getting hit on his left arm. He also gets his shoulder wrapped to put pressure on it.

But with one game remaining in his collegiate career, Woods insists he's not about to sit out for fear of further injury.

"I just want to go out a winner. It doesn't matter if I get hurt or not, as long as we win," Woods said. "That's all I want."

Woods has been playing hurt since he injured his shoulder in a practice leading up to Arkansas' 9-7 loss to Auburn on Oct. 13. He aggravated the injury when strong safety Matt Hewitt accidentally ran into him during pregame warmups, causing Woods' shoulder to pop out.

"You don't really hear him complain about it too much because that's just kind of how he is, but you can tell it bothers him sometimes," Arkansas cornerback Michael Grant said.

Arkansas assistant athletic trainer Eric Linson said Woods' shoulder injury is common, though painful. The safety's shoulder tends to slide out of place, and he will pop it back in on his own.

But the injury won't improve until after Woods has reconstructive surgery on Jan. 3. Linson said the procedure is serious, comparable to what a player would have to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

"If it was a freshman that did this, you would redshirt him and go ahead and have his surgery," Linson said.

But Woods has continued to play, even though he lines up at a position in which he's almost certain to take contact on his left arm while making a tackle.

Woods has missed only one game because of the shoulder injury, and he's tied with Grant for fifth on the Razorbacks with 71 tackles this season. He has ignored the pain to start eight games and record two interceptions.

Woods has also forgotten about the controversial pass interference penalty against him that set up Alabama's go-ahead touchdown with eight seconds left in a 41-38 win over Arkansas on Sept. 15.

"You've got to have a short memory out there. I forgot about that as soon as the call was made," Woods said. "I was ready for the next play."

Sophomore Rashaad Johnson started the last three games of the regular season at free safety because of Woods' injury. But the senior is expected to play a significant role in trying to contain Missouri quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Chase Daniel in the Cotton Bowl.

Injury or not, Woods insists he'll play.

"He's a great example for this football team, and he has played with some aches and pains," Arkansas interim coach Reggie Herring said. "We have appreciated Kevin for that."

Kevin Woods

Age: 20

Size: 5-foot-10, 194 pounds

Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.

Notable: Woods has started eight games this season, and he's recorded 71 tackles in 11 games. He missed one game because of his left shoulder injury. He's tied for fifth on the Razorbacks in tackles, and he's added two interceptions and four pass breakups this season. His 71 tackles is nine less than he had in his first three seasons at Arkansas combined.

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